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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: April 2013

1 - Making meaning thematic


Introduction: phenomenology and phenomenologies

Throughout this volume I shall understand “phenomenology” to be the philosophy of Edmund Husserl and of those philosophers who linked on to it by means of creative (even if often quite critical) appropriation. This defines a very large group, but among historical figures it includes at least Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Emmanuel Levinas, and Jacques Derrida. Husserl designated his mature thought “transcendental phenomenology,” but none of these philosophers adopted that designation for their version of phenomenology. Remarks can be found in the works of each that link them to the transcendental tradition, but in general the history of phenomenology appears to be a series of attempts to break free from the “intellectualism” (Merleau-Ponty’s term) of transcendental philosophy.

Some might argue, then, that the kind of project ventured in this chapter – an examination of the relation between phenomenology and the transcendental turn inaugurated by Kant – ought to restrict itself to those aspects of Husserl’s thought that either draw upon or directly criticize tenets of Kant’s Critical philosophy, and several very good studies of this sort have been carried out. But even if later phenomenologists sought to distance themselves from Husserl, they often did so while adopting elements of his transcendental phenomenology. There are few studies that explore whether there might be aspects of transcendental phenomenology that are shared by these otherwise very different thinkers, but that is what I propose to do.